Microsoft Caters to Small Business Needs - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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The Paperless Kitchen

Her increasingly sophisticated use of technology also meant she could stick to a no-paper rule, a key tenet in the Selfish Box environmental philosophy. She automated invoicing for orders placed at the firm’s Web site to avoid the need for printed invoices, for example.

The Web ordering module is integrated with Microsoft Office on her system. When the complete and sign off on an order, the system automatically generates and e-mails an invoice. “That also saves me money because we don’t have to wait for somebody [at the customer site] to sign the invoice, and we’re able to go on right away to the next delivery,” Hua said.

The tablet PC is a key piece of technology that she’s rarely without. For one thing, it means she can work anywhere. If she has to take her two young sons to piano lessons, for example, she’ll work on the tablet while she’s waiting for them.

Making shopping lists on the PC may be the most impressive proof of Hua’s commitment to remaining paperless. Even corporate gadget junkies jot grocery lists on post-it notes or the backs of envelopes when they have to go shopping. Not Hua.

If it’s a big shopping trip, she’ll use existing ingredient lists in the Excel spreadsheet and simply add quantities required by tapping with the stylus in each field and typing. Then she refers to the spreadsheet on the tablet screen when she’s in the store.

If she only needs a few items, Hua jots them on the tablet freehand using the stylus and Microsoft’s Digital Ink technology. “Even if it’s only one item, I’ll still write it down,” she said, chuckling. “There are so many distractions around here, if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget.”

Hua has also, with some trepidation, used the PC and spreadsheet to research prices for ingredients. She totes her tablet into each store and takes the time to type in prices for each item she uses. “Nobody has ever even stopped me and asked what I'm doing,” Hua said.

Growing Room

She recently added a couple of new pieces of Microsoft technology to her arsenal, including Home Server, which she uses to backup all her business data, and Office Accounting Express.

When the firm got to a size that it needed proper accounting, she decided to do it herself using the Microsoft software rather than hiring an accountant. This too is in keeping with her environmental commitment, she says, because the money saved helps defray the additional costs of operating green.

Hua would be the first to admit that using specifically Microsoft technology is not essential to pursuing a triple bottom line, but she makes a good case for a small business “growing up” with Microsoft technology. It’s familiar, easy to use, compatible with tools customers and suppliers use, and it's rich enough to answer all her business needs for a good long time.

“As I grow in my business, I’m continually seeing more reasons to use the technology, more ways to use it,” she said. “So as I need them, I can delve into those new features – or new-to-me features. In other words, it hasn’t put any boundaries on what I can do.”

Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s.

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This article was originally published on August 26, 2008
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